Can you smell it yet? That faint aroma off in the distance, growing ever closer?
Football is coming.
Soon, we’ll be rescued from the steamy doldrums of summer by the sounds of shoulder pads colliding, footballs whistling through the air and Jaguars fans weeping because Blaine Gabbert is still their quarterback.
As teams inch closer to the opening of training camp, there are still a handful of free agents who are out of work, and could still be of some service. When you’re dealing with a team like the Raiders, who ended the 2011 season at 8-8 and then overhauled the front office, coaching staff and roster, you can use all the help you can get. Let’s take a look at three guys who might look good in Silver and Black this fall.
Come on, did you really think I wasn’t going to start with everyone’s favorite deadbeat dad, Terrell Owens? OK, so it’s not really fair to call him a deadbeat dad, but he did get taken to task by three baby mamas on national television. Seriously, three baby mamas? He’s no Travis Henry, but come on, T.O., have you never heard of birth control?
As far as on-the-field performance is concerned, T.O. probably still has some fuel left in the tank. This is a guy who kept himself in peak physical condition his entire career, so there’s no doubt he’s in good shape. And say what you want about his off-the-field antics (if you can think of anything that hasn’t already been said), but Owens has never quit on Sundays. Considering the fact he’s still on the market, he should also come fairly cheap. I view Owens the same way Niner fans view Randy Moss—a low-risk, high-reward signing that could end up a pleasant surprise, or be easily and cheaply erased.
The Raiders are actually in a good spot in terms of receivers, having two standout starters (Darrius Heyward-Bey and Denarius Moore) and some promising young talent with Rod Streater and Juron Criner. But there is no such thing as too much depth in the NFL, and Owens could teach the kids a thing or two about work ethic—so long as they don’t pick up any of his locker room or media tendencies.
If I had to pick three things the Raiders needed to fix coming into 2012, they would be (in no particular order): defense, defense and defense. I still shudder when I think of the season-ending Chargers game in Week 17, in which Phillip Rivers shredded the Raider secondary. The defense grew steadily worse all season, culminating in that embarrassing performance. It wasn’t pretty.
Former Colt Brackett is undersized (5-foot-11) and has had some injury problems, but he is a smart football player that could provide some veteran leadership to a young linebacking corps. While Aaron Curry and Rolando McClain are talented players, they don’t always play up to that talent level. Sure, the Raiders added some linebacker depth in free agency, but they should still take a flier on Brackett. If nothing else, he can help Curry and McClain become smarter linebackers. And if there’s anybody who needs to start making smarter decisions, it’s McClain.
I really don’t have any idea what happened to Shiancoe. He’s a physically gifted player, with great speed for a tight end, and he had a breakout season in 2009 as one of Brett Favre’s favorite red zone targets (11 touchdowns). But it’s been a steady decline ever since, and he was released by the Vikings after last season. His numbers weren't great, but what do you expect when he had Donovan McNabb and rookie Christian Ponder throwing to him?
Shiancoe is a little old (32), but this is about as big a no-brainer as I can come up with for Oakland. They don’t have a proven tight end on the roster, or even a promising rookie (despite my ardent pleas to draft one), so why not sign Shiancoe? Like the other two guys on this list, he’s not going to cost a lot of money (which is good because the Raiders don’t have much to spend under the cap), and at 6-foot-4, he could end up being a nice big underneath target for Carson Palmer in contrast to the downfield burners in the receiving corps.